Migratory holding patterns and an undead goldfinch

While interesting things are happening where migration is monitored around the coast, locally at least we seem to be in a holding pattern. The garden remains full of goldfinches, with good numbers of Great, Blue and Coal Tits about too.

What will winter hold? Will it throw in redpolls, siskins and waxwings? When will the fieldfare and redwing arrive? Or will it be a milder, quieter winter? We’ll see.

The sheer number of goldfinches has made life easy for at least one local cat, and I’ve had to dispose of a few dead bodies already. When 20-30 birds squabble over three feeders, some inevitably end up on the ground and distracted, and that makes them easy prey. Sad is it is, that’s why birds have these numbers of young, because it allows for ‘redundancy’.
The pattern of destruction has had at least one magical moment though. Spotting the main culprit stalking around near the feeders, I headed out to scare it off, only to spot another dead goldfinch on the ground.

Looking a little closer, I quickly realised it was still alive. This is always a worrying moment as the bird may well be alive, in pain, with no prospect of a healthy recovery. But after picking it up and examining it, it was a little bloodied and battered, but fundamentally intact.

We moved it to a safe spot and kept an eye out. The cat kept returning, certain it had left its prey behind, but the bird had gone.

For nearly an hour the goldfinch laid on its side, barely moving, breathing heavily, and not even opening its eyes. I wasn’t optimistic. But then, its eyes opened and it lifted its head a little. When it heard other goldfinches flying over, it even moved its bill.

After sitting head raised for another 15-20 minutes, with no real warning, it jumped up, ruffled its feathers, flapped its wings, then hopped about the plant pots. We didn’t see it fly off, but given its wings and legs were obviously intact and working there is no reason to think it didn’t set off safely later on.

A great illustration of how long it can take a traumatised bird to shake off shock, and how quickly it will then recover.  Sadly I was so focused on saving it that I didn’t take any photos. If it happens again I will.

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One Response to Migratory holding patterns and an undead goldfinch

  1. Pingback: A tail-less tale | Why watch wildlife?

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